Sunday, February 07, 2010
inferior only to the ocean, folkies will always dance
I'm not sure how long Local 522 has been in existence, but Friday night was my first time there. In fact, prior to the announcement of the Spoon/Berner concert, I had never heard of the place. But with the impending closure of the Warehouse, it's a welcome addition to the live music scene in Calgary.
At first glance it has a slightly tacky 70's basement feel to it, with the moose head on the wall and all, but the upscale menu and fully stocked central bar, in addition to the generously-scaled and nicely padded stools, ensure that taking in a show is considerable step up from listening to Cheap Trick from the old orange chesterfield in the rec room.
It was a veritable who's who of the Calgary folk music scene at Local 522 on Friday night. And not just on the stage. I'm not going to succumb to the temptation to drop names here, but the headliners and their respective entourage were at the next table, while certain Woodpigeons and local crack songwriter/storytellers shared the table in front of us with a legion of Calgary Folk Festival royalty, and the merchandise.
It felt like home. I definitely felt like part of the tribe, particularly after having my name recognised (by virtue of this humble blog) while indulging in the inevitable chatting that occurs whilst perusing the available merchandise.
Opener (and violinist for Geoff Berner) Brigitte Dajczer only had three CDs left on the table, but I bought one with the proviso that she's going to mail it to me. Her solo set was very brief, a little nibble of Edith Piaff-inspired cabaret. It would have been interesting to hear more, but I imagine they were pressed for time due to the extended sound check which ran the show late, and which caused the Spousal Unit to declare more than once "they're not really burning the house down with this song, are they?" After a while one gives up on trying to explain the concept of tuning and sound check.
Rae Spoon had been very sweet and awkwardly gracious while signing his CD for me. I was offered a choice of Sharpies - an enticing purple from the merch table or red produced by the musician. But not just any red, he clarified in a conspiratorial tone, "it's claret". How could I refuse, claret autograph it was.
Once Rae took to the stage, any residual awkwardness evaporated. He was still sweet and so tiny up there on the stage, but proved to be such an engaging and comfortable banterer, that the transformation was palpable. He has an incredible voice, which belies his wee stature, and his ease and connection to the audience, already leaving their seats (myself included) for a better vantage point, really drew us in. When he played We Become Our Own Wolves from his incredible album inferioryouaresuperior, naturally we all howled along with our best wolf howls when invited.
Geoff Berner then reprised his patented drunken klezmer-punk schtick, but not before also graciously signing the cleverly offbeat merchandise that he had on offer, albeit in plain old ballpoint. He had the coolest looking accordion-bedecked tee shirts for sale, for which I am now kicking myself for not buying.
By the time Geoff took to the stage, the dance floor was packed. And I mean dance floor in the truest sense of the word. This was not merely a place where people stood and bobbed their heads to the music. This was a place where people danced! Waltzed even, when called upon to do so. I saw Rae Spoon being carried around under the arm of a gigantic guy in a toque, and Kris Demeanor and Chantal Vitalis cutting a rug in fine folk festival tradition.
We all sang lustily along with chorus of the Official Theme Song for the 2010 Vancouver/Whistler Olympic Games ("the dead children were worth it!"), and we ignored Geoff's announcement that in lieu of an encore, the band would just drink with us. And despite the somewhat celebratory announcement made by the accordion-playing whiskey-swilling, half-German-dating rebel that the bar was now sold out of Jamieson's whiskey, we drank to Geoff Berner and his merry band of misfits in heartfelt spirit.
What a hell of a night.